For 2nd time, Sanofi declines PH demand for full P3B Dengvaxia refund

MANILA, Philippines – French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur has once again refused to comply with the Department of Health’s (DOH) demand for a full P3-billion refund for the Dengvaxia vaccine vials purchased.

Sanofi on Monday, February 19, said that they “respectfully declined” the 2nd letter sent to them by DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, who demanded a full refund and for the company to set up an indemnification fund for vaccinees. 

The pharmaceutical company said a full refund would mean their vaccine is ineffective, the same argument Sanofi Asia Pacific head Thomas Triomphe made when he first declined Duque’s demand. 

“This morning Sanofi Pasteur responded to the Department of Health’s second request that we refund the government for the used doses of Dengvaxia® and financially support an indemnification fund,” said Sanofi in a statement. 

“As we did in our previous reply to the DOH on 5 February, 2018, we respectfully declined both requests. We stand firmly behind our product. Refunding the used doses of Dengvaxia would imply that the vaccine is ineffective, which is not the case. And at this time, there is also no known circumstance requiring indemnification,” it added. 

Sanofi already refunded P1.4 billion to the DOH, equivalent to the amount of Dengvaxia vials already used in the government’s now-suspended dengue vaccination program. (READ: Dengvaxia refund to buy anti-dengue kits for vaccinated kids

Dengvaxia was the vaccine used when ex-health chief Janette Garin launched the school-based dengue immunization program in 3 regions in April 2016. (READ: TIMELINE: Dengue immunization program for public school students)

Less than two years later, Sanofi announced Dengvaxia may lead a person to develop severe dengue symptoms if he or she had not been infected by the virus prior vaccination.

Duque had said a full refund is merited as the "purported or reported or claimed protection [of Dengvaxia] wasn't felt and wasn't there.” 

But Sanofi maintains they never claimed Dengvaxia was fully effective. 

“Dengue remains a major public health challenge. Dengvaxia vaccination in the Philippines will provide a net reduction in dengue disease, including severe dengue and, thereby, reduce the overall public health burden with this disease,” said Sanofi. 

“We remind you that no vaccine is 100% protective. Dengvaxia, like all other vaccines, has never claimed 100% efficacy in its approved label,” it added. 

Still, the company said their “concern and empathy” remains with the more than 837,000 young Filipinos who received the risky vaccine. 

Sanofi said they are still willing to sit down with DOH officials “to find other ways we can assist their efforts to combat dengue in the Philippines and restoring public trust in vaccines.” 

A total of 3 out of 14 people who received the vaccine already died of dengue despite receiving shots of Dengvaxia, according to the expert panel from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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